Plugging away brings home MegaBucks

On The Outdoors

May 20, 1999|By Peter Baker | Peter Baker,SUN STAFF

Ron Shuffield was feeling the pressure after the first day of the $621,000 Kmart Bassmaster MegaBucks Tournament last week. Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, Tenn., had been unforgiving, and it had been eight years since he had won on the B.A.S.S. tour.

"I started off this tournament catching one bass that put me in 125th place," said Shuffield, of Bismarck, Ark., "and I thought seriously about going home."

Over the next four days, however, the 42-year-old figured out a spinnerbait pattern fished around shallow, floating boat docks and climbed through the standings to win the $125,000 top prize.

"My goodness! This is really a satisfying victory for me," Shuffield said Sunday after registering his sixth career B.A.S.S. victory.

"I moved up to 15th the second day, and then eighth on the last day [of qualifying]. Thank God I won it today."

The MegaBucks tournament is the final qualifying event for the BASS Masters Classic world championships and usually figures heavily in determining the Top 150 tour's Angler of the Year.

The MegaBucks format cuts the pro field to the top 10 finishers after three days of qualifying. On the last two days, the finalists rotate through a 10-hole course, spending 50 minutes fishing at each location.

Drake's Creek, a tributary of Old Hickory, was the site for this year's final rounds.

Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, qualified last for the finals, but on Saturday he brought in five bass weighing 10 pounds, 4 ounces and was in first place entering the final day. One of his bass weighed 4 pounds, 15 ounces, and it nearly was disqualified.

"I hooked that big fish with about two minutes left [on the 50-minute limit]," said Wendlandt, fishing in his second MegaBucks finals. "For a while, I didn't think I was going to be able to get it in the boat before I ran out of time. It was close."

And with Old Hickory giving up only four other five-bass limits among the 10 finalists, Wendlandt appeared to be in good shape entering the last round.

Shuffield, who had weighed in just four fish, was in second place, only 2 pounds, 6 ounces behind, the size of one good Hickory Lake bass.

On Sunday, Shuffield weighed in a five-bass limit, while Wendlandt brought only four fish to the scales and fell 4 ounces short.

Kevin Van Dam of Kalamazoo, Mich., finished in eighth place, but on Thursday his total of 9 pounds, 9 ounces clinched the Angler of the Year title, a crown he has won three times in his eight-year career.

MSSA rockfish results

More than 660 boats participated in the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association spring tournament May 15-16, and two Baltimore-area anglers checked in the first- and second-place rockfish.

James M. Diven of Baltimore took first place with a 41.5-inch striper, and Robert P. Blasetti of Catonsville took second place with a catch only an eighth of an inch shorter, according to MSSA officials.

In the catch-and-release division, James Shaw of Clarksville released 70 rockfish to place first.

According to MSSA officials, nearly 300 rockfish were checked at 12 check stations and eight committee boats in Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Final winners in all categories are still being computed by MSSA.

Fishing report

Salt water

Upper Chesapeake Bay: Best rockfish action now is being enjoyed by chummers from Brewerton Channel to the Bay Bridge, although the LP Buoy area continues to produce occasional keepers for trollers. Elk River has been good for catfish on cut bait. Fine white perch fishing in the Susquehanna River from Lapidum to Thome's Landing, while catfish action is picking up.

Middle Chesapeake: The switch to chumming is on in this area, as well, as trolling action for big rockfish has been spotty as far south as Cove Point. Croaker, meanwhile, have moved in and presently are being caught from shallow, nearshore areas. Bluefish activity has been very unpredictable.

Lower Chesapeake Bay: The best chance for big rockfish such as the 50-incher taken aboard Capt. Henry Goottee's Striker last week probably is in the area from Cove Point to the Virginia line. Goottee's catch came while trolling the Hooper Island area, but the Triangle and Cedar Point Hollow also have been turning up big fish.

Tidal Potomac River: Largemouth bass action is hot near grassbeds, along marshy banks and near wood cover.

Upper Potomac: River levels have been low, but smallmouth bass fishing has been good on tube lures and grubs fished on the edges of fast water and deeper holes.

Ocean City: Tautog at the jetties, bluefish, stripers and some sea trout to 24 inches at the U.S. 50 bridge. Sea trout and blues in the surf.

Fresh water

North Branch of the Potomac: Trout anglers may want to try Blue Quills and Blue-winged Olives, but caddis should work well soon.

Savage River: Blue Quills and Blue-Winged Olives in size 18 and Quill Gordons and olive caddis in size 14.

Gunpowder River: Caddis hatch from mid-morning to mid-afternoon; evening hatch of sulphurs.

Loch Raven Reservoir: Spawn winding down, but bass are actively taking crankbaits, spinnerbaits and plastics. Perch and crappie action picking up in the coves, and northern pike in the Warren Road area.

Liberty Reservoir: Smallmouth and largemouth bass in five- to 12-foot depths, where crankbaits will work well. Crappie in the coves and walleye active in the upper portion of the impoundment.

Prettyboy Reservoir: Best bet is smallmouth bass on jigs and spinners fished over gravel bars.

Pub Date: 5/20/99

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